Danes Give Thumbs-Up To Nearby Wind Turbines

Denmark is a small country with a lot of wind power — nearly 26 percent of its electricity came from the wind in 2011, far and away the highest percentage in wind-friendly Europe. And while some U.S. communities resist industrial wind power, raging against it as a health hazard, a danger to wildlife or a financial boondoggle – or, what the hell, all of the above – the Danes seem to shrug, live with it and get on with their very green lives.

Take a recent survey of some 1,278 Danes who all live within 1.2 miles of at least one of 125 400-foot-tall wind turbines spread out over 30 projects: Just 1 in 20 said there were significant disadvantages to living in such close proximity to the spinning behemoths.

image via European Wind Energy Association

image via European Wind Energy Association

The survey is only available in Danish, so we’re relying on the results as reported by the European Wind Energy Association, which of course has a pro-wind bias. Still, the findings in the survey appear striking.

According to the EWEA, when asked about their general experience with the turbines, 35 percent of people said there were only positives and 43 percent were indifferent – meaning 78 percent were basically cool with the turbines. Ten percent said they had experienced mere “annoyances” and another 10 percent cited both positives and negatives.

“It is good that this survey has been done, as we know how the neighbors of wind turbines perceive wind turbines on an everyday basis. We are pleased to see that more than 80 percent of respondents were not at all disturbed by wind turbines, but we would like to see a higher figure,” Jan Hylleberg, CEO of the Danish Wind Industry Association, said in a statement.

One reason Danes might be more accepting of big wind is that they themselves have often been investors in the projects. According to a World Future Council piece, in Denmark, “Over 100 wind turbine co-operatives have a combined ownership of three-quarters of the country’s turbines.” The article told the story a project that consisted of three 3-megawatt turbines:

The three wind turbines at the Hvide Sande harbour were set up in December 2011. 80% of the wind farm is owned by the Holmsland Klit Tourist Association foundation, a local business fund which initiated and financed the project. Hvide Sande’s North Harbour Turbine Society I/S pay an annual rent of €644000 to the local harbour. The other 20% is owned by local residents living within a 4.5 km radius, as per the guidelines set out by the Danish Renewable Energy Act. This wind co-operative has 400 local stakeholders, and with an annual return of 9 to 11% the turbines are expected to pay for themselves in 7 to 10 years. The fund is used to initiate new business initiatives for the benefit of the harbour and local municipality.

It’s easy to see how having a real stake in a project – and the ability to see its benefits – can help shape acceptance of wind power, which is often seen in the U.S. as being imposed on communities.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.